Amnesty International has scolded Gambian president Yahya Jammeh on his government’s crack down on political freedom and widespread human rights violations with total impunity, describing naming July 22 celebration “national holiday of Freedom Day a shameful travesty.”
As the country marked the 16th anniversary of a day when democracy, rule of law, human rights, good governance, security and peace were assassinated, hundreds of activists representing over 87 non-governmental organisations take part in protests and other activities in 14 countries. Championed by AI, the “Day of Action” allows activists in these countries to draw attention to The Gambia government’s appalling human rights record since 1994.
“Naming Gambia’s national holiday ‘Freedom Day’ is a shameful travesty,” AI said in a statement, arguing, “freedom remains an illusion for most Gambians, who live in fear of arbitrary arrest, torture, incommunicado detention, unfair trials, rape, disappearance, and extra-judicial executions.”
The rights group faults the Jammeh government for its frequent arrest and detention without trial. It makes reference to the death sentence imposed on 8 detainees found guilty of attempting to topple Jammeh from powereh’s government.
“The trial violated a host of international fair trial standards. Detainees had little or no access to their lawyers or even their families. Sources indicate that the accused have been tortured, while others were pressured to provide false testimony at the trial, under threat of imprisonment and torture. The government persecuted those who refused to give false testimony, allegedly going to far as to make death threats.”
Conditions in Gambian prisons, especially in Mile 2 Central Prison and other secret detention centres, military barracks, secret quarters in police stations, police stations in remote areas, and warehouses are appalling, AI said. “They amount to a violation of the right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.”
Until 22 July 1994, The Gambia had been a champion of not only democracy, rule of law and human rights but also land of hope for countries in the region. Today, the West African country is making headlines for gross violations of human rights, including the right to free speech.
The Gambia has been called to stop human rights violations, comply with obligations under the African Charter with regard to the right to liberty, freedom from torture, right to fair trial, freedom of expression and of association. It’s also urged to end incommunicado detention and enforced disappearances, and ensure that those responsible for them are brought to justice, investigate all allegations of torture and extra-judicial executions.